Normally the trail to the Triple Crown gives us exciting finishes in the top prep races run throughout the early portion of the winter/spring. This years renewal of the preps for the Triple Crown has done just the opposite. Some say that this is the worst crop of 3 year olds since 2008 when Big Brown won the Derby from the 20 post, I would tend to agree that these colts are at least that mediocre, and one of the worst groups of 3 yr olds we’ve seen in quite some time. Some say run a filly in the Derby, their times are very similar, as a matter of fact R Heat Lightening ran her Oaks Prep a full second faster than Dialed In in the Florida Derby 24 hours later. The banter for a filly to run in the Derby is legitimate, and two that I think would stand a fantastic chance of doing well are Zazu and Joyful Victory. Both are horses that relax and rate and would not find much trouble running past this group of Grade III 3 year olds.
Here are a few topics that really matter this time of year when it comes to dealing with those who should be considered as Contenders compared to Pretenders.
“Consider the times” – some people want to throw out times, especially when their favorite horse wins a race in a mediocre time or is just simply a slow horse, Dialed In falls into this category, the fact that Nick Zito is able to sell a dime store horse for a million dollar price to some on these blogs and horse racing fans in general gives indication that more and more are thinking with their hearts and not their heads. Closing the final 1/8th of a mile in almost 14 seconds took me off this horses band wagon, and well actually it should have knocked the wheels off the band wagon. Going forward some thought that Zito would crank the horse to get him ready for the Derby, if the 4f breeze in and uninspiring :49 gives you indication of being cranked, please feel free to lower his odds to 2-1 come post time. The objective handicapper would not take that chance.
“Consider the Conditioning”- humans make mistakes, but underestimating the movement forward of 3 year olds this time of year by Todd Pletcher (oh yeah an eclipse award winning trainer) and running his horse short in the Wood Memorial off a series of slow works that gave no indication of building a foundation, and then the quirky prep schedule that put Uncle MO on target to contest another 8.5f race impressively, well words can’t describe the disappointment of watching this horse struggle home the final ¼ mile in the Wood. The horse was short, that is all there was to it, when breaking the gates did he break like a horse with a GI issue, excuses of that nature don’t fly with me when dealing with horses that are raked with a fine tooth comb almost every day of their lives, can he bounce back, maybe, is that likely, absolutely not, his best bet is to look for 9f races down the line to try to garner 3 year old honors. Right now ArchArchArch leads in that category with at least 2 Graded stakes win.
“Consider the pedigree” The factor ran to his pedigree on Saturday at Oaklawn Park, breaking sharp but being out footed to the lead by a couple of horses that were better out of the gate, he was in trouble early, and he didn’t like taking dirt and he didn’t like have to rate with a hold on him, these things show up when a sprinter with the need to lead type running style has to take back for the first time, he resented other horses being beside and in front of him, when they hit the stretch he ranged up and then he spit the bit, not sure if that signals good things to come for this horse at a route of ground but I would tend to say no. What does he have, he does possess amazing speed that he can carry about a mile or so, and so leave him at that, let him take on Goldikova in the BC Mile, or maybe look at the Met Mile and other prestigious races. Be smart and take care of your horse, take a page from the connections of Turbulent Descent, they recognized that 9f was asking too much of their filly and took her back to sprints, there is nothing at all wrong with that. Some just have the Derby Fever and can’t leave well enough alone.
Lastly “Consider the Excuse or Excuses” There are plenty of them out there, what will you do when your horse loses. Find a vet that will validate (1) a small health concern, don’t step up to the plate and say in all honesty “I had him short today”, (2) he’s not cranked, that was the excuse for Dialed In running so slow in the Fl Derby, (3) Equipment Change, anyone ever heard of “If it aint broke don’t fix it” adding blinkers, removing blinkers, figure Eight, I mean what else would we need to do to see if we can’t get the horse to run faster. Resorting to these measures says that something isn’t right, but then when the horse resents it and throws in a clunker you want to go back to square 1, for what reason, I guess because you want a result like the one you received in the Gotham when a horse like Stay Thirsty wins by 4 lengths. “Displaced Palate” – probably legitimate, but you never know, saving face with that one in terms of The Factor is certainly not needed, he’s respected and always will be so hopefully they will get that fixed and Garcia will not be “Grabbing a hold of the horse” in the future so he can run his race. (4) Injuries have taken their toll on the Graded Earnings list. Tapizar, Clubhouse Ride, Permier Pegasus, Author’s Tale, boys of Tosconova , there are others I may be missing but these things happen, for some reason over half mentioned on this list come from California, why is that, why can’t they get their track right to stop the injuries. Hopefully there will be a fix soon, but the Derby Trail is affected by defections like this and its sad to see for these connections.
The Derby being wide open is an understatement, never before have we seen it like this, with such a group of inconsistent, sometimes slow horses, hopefully someone will emerge, and I see that horse being Nehro. Sleep on him if you want. He wants 10f and will get it on May 7. You heard it here.